When: Fri., June 24, 9 p.m. 2016
FRIDAY, JUNE 24
I once watched Kool Keith eat an orange. I say that because, after seeing him storm through a set of sexually charged and supremely strange songs at the downtown Manhattan supper club Joe's Pub, the unintentionally intimate backstage moment stuck out more than anything else. It was clearly human behavior from an artist whose work rarely seems to identify with his species.
What Keith Thornton, or Kool Keith, brings to the music world is indeed alien, like Sun Ra, Gary Wilson, or GWAR. Some genres are kinder than others when it comes to true weirdness, but rap music rejects a lot that seems to come from too far afield. Thornton's penchant for pseudonymous projects heavy with backstory aligns him more with Parliament-Funkadelic's cosmic absurdity than the earthbound concerns of hip-hop. Dr. Octagon made for his most beloved character, while his murderous Dr. Dooom persona was enamored with the grotesque. Released under the Kool Keith guise, Sex Style doles out perversion in such a magniloquent way that it blurs the line between comedy and pornography, a formula he'd go on to repeat.
Fortunately for Thornton, who continues to drop album after album of intense and unusual hip-hop three decades into his unlikely career, he essentially grandfathered himself into rap's canon thanks to his tenure in the seminal Ultramagnetic MCs. While his name may not come up as often in conversations about New York's greatest rappers as, say, KRS-One, Thornton's place in the tradition remains intact thanks to his uncompromising artistry and unique otherworldliness. He's an alien, remember, in a terrestrial realm. With KAZE. —Gary Suarez
LOCAL 506, CHAPEL HILL9 p.m., $20, www.local506.com